Issue 41, Sept/Oct 2016
Lou Marinoff is a professor of philosophy at the City College of New York as well as a fine musician. Born in Montreal, his doctorate in philosophy is from England, and he has taught in Canada and Israel as well as Europe and the United States. Since this recording contains music that he recorded between 1976 and 2009, it represents more than three decades of his journey through life. We know he has been playing the music of J. S. Bach for all of this time because he recorded the composer’s pieces at various junctures. He opens his program with the Prelude to the First Cello Suite, which he recorded in Montreal in 1976 on a guitar that enabled him to play exquisite low tones. He makes the guitar a good substitute for the cello and he plays the Prelude at a moderato tempo with clear articulation. He follows it with his relaxed but never slurred rendition of the Bourrée from the Partita in B Minor, which he recorded in 2006. His last Bach selections, found on tracks three to six, are the three-part Sinfonias Nos. 3, 4, and 5 and the Two-Part Invention No. 14, short contrapuntal pieces that the composer wrote as exercises for his pupils. Marinoff plays them with professional expertise. Next he plays two dances by the 18th-century Aragonese composer Gaspar Sanz: a slow pavane and a fast and catchy canarios. The listener’s feet will want to start tapping the rhythms of the latter. Matteo Carcassi was a famous early 19th-century Florentine Italian guitarist, teacher, and composer. When Marinoff plays the A-Major studies Carcassi wrote for his pupils, he shows how gracefully the modern guitar can render them.
Fernando Sor’s early 19th-century Rondo and Grand Sonata demonstrate some of the delights of classical guitar, and Marinoff plays them with great ease and obvious familiarity. Venezuelan guitarist Antonio Lauro is thought to be one of the foremost 20th-century South American composers for the guitar. His waltzes show his affection for the folk music of his continent. It is the kind of music one needs after a particularly stressful day. Fellow 20th-century composer Federico Moreno-Torroba may be best known for his zarzuelas, but his compositions for guitar, such as his homage to the Spanish city of Torija heard on track 16, are most memorable. Sicilian Dreams is Moshe Denburg’s arrangement of music from two of Pietro Mascagni’s operas: Cavalleria rusticana and Silvano. Although the Intermezzo from Cavalleria is much better known than the Barcarolle from Silvano, it is the latter piece that Martin Scorsese chose to accompany a montage in his film Raging Bull. Leo Brouwer’s Elogio de la Danza, a homage to Igor Stravinsky, is the most modern-sounding piece on this disc and it makes a good introduction to modern guitar music for those who are mainly accustomed to the 18th- and 19th-century classics. It’s rhythmic and it’s fun to clap along with it at home. Marinoff is a perceptive musician who plays with stylistic ease. The sound is good on all the selections and a bit crisper on the ones he recorded in the 21st century. I enjoyed this disc immensely and think anyone who wants some delightful music for relaxation or who is studying classical guitar will want to have Marinoff’s renditions of these short works.